Actress Emma Thompson has sent a letter to Skydance Animation management detailing why she pulled out of upcoming film Luck to avoid working with alleged sexual harasser filmmaker John Lasseter.
Lasseter was hired to Skydance earlier this year, just months after his three-decade-long career with Disney ended, and following multiple allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against him. According to reports, Lasseter had a reputation of being sexually inappropriate with female co-workers, including rubbing their legs, kissing on the lips, and, in Lasseter's own words in a memo sent to the company, "unwanted hugs".
After the announcement by Skydance, many employees were reportedly unhappy with Lasseter's appointment in the company. It was reported that Media Chief Executive David Ellison sent an email to staff members saying Lasseter was "contractually obligated" to behave professionally; while Mireille Soria, president of Paramount Pictures Animation (with which Skydance has a distribution deal), met with female employees to inform them they were free to decline to work with Lasseter if they chose to.
Emma Thompson, who was due to star in upcoming Skydance Animation production Luck, pulled out of the production earlier this month due to her concerns about working with Lasseter. Her representatives have said she began talks to quit the project immediately after Lasseter's appointment was announced. She officially withdrew on January 20.
Now, a letter from Thompson to Skydance management has detailed her concerns about working with Lasseter, and why she felt pulling out of production was the right step.
In the letter, Thompson raises a number of questions to management about the ethics of working with an alleged abuser, and her dedication to speak up in favour of women in order to create a better environment for her daughter in the future. Thompson also stresses her admiration of the film's director Alessandro Carloni, and says that she "regrets having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director."
Here is the text of the letter in full:
As you know, I have pulled out of the production of Luck — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.
I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:
- If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?
- If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”
- Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?
- If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don't want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?
- Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?
I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.
I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.
Yours most sincerely,
Photo: Wikipedia Commons